Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cuban Styled Black Beans and Rice

Have you ever had one of those days where comfort food is just a must?

 It has been extremely busy around here for the last month:  from the fun chaos of having our first exchange student, to having 7 extra people in the house for a week, to heading 9 hours away for a family reunion!  Needless to say, when we arrived home on Saturday we were pleasantly exhausted and looking forward to our own beds.  Instead, we were greeted by a broken AC Southern Florida that is called an emergency situation!  After much debate, we decided that calling the AC company was the only way to go.  No one could come out until the next morning.   We could survive sleeping in the heat, right?  After a night in a humid 90 degree house, we woke exhausted and bedraggled.  We eventually had to abandon house and stay at a friend's house for two nights.  After over a week from home, comfort was definitely on the menu!!!  This is one of my son's favorite comfort foods and I win multiple "Mom, you are the BEST MOM EVER!" comments when I pull this out of the oven.  

No pics this week. Upon taking the large cast iron dutch oven out of the oven, pictures were the farthest thing from my mind:)  

Cuban Styled Black Beans
 Serves 6 to 8 as a main dish

1 cup dried black beans, rinsed and picked over.  (I really enjoy the Goya brand of beans.  They cook up tender and do not turn mushy.  They even hold up to rewarming well.)

2 cups of Kitchen Basics Beef Broth.  (Kitchen Basics is a great brand of broth.  Allergy free broth is hard to find!)

2 cups water

2 large green bell peppers, halved and seeded.  (I actually use red bell peppers.  It adds a little extra color to the dish.)

1 large onion, halved with the root end still intact.  (Carefully peel the onion and keep the root end.  I usually rinse it to make sure no dirt is stuck in those little roots!)

1 head of garlic.  Remove 5 cloves of garlic and then cut the remaining garlic head in half.  

2 bay leaves

1 1/2 cups of long grain white rice  (Be careful when buying rice, most brands of rice carried at normal supermarkets contain gluten.  Asian Markets are your best bet.  Granted, I have found gluten free rice at Walmart.)

2 T. oil

6 ounces of lean salt pork, cut into small (1/4") pieces.  (This is sold in 12 oz. packages.  Thus, I double the recipe and use the whole package.)

1/2 tsp. dried oregano flakes

4 tsp. ground cumin

2 T.  unflavored rice vinegar

Green Onions and Limes for topping.

1.  Place beans in a pot and cover with cold water.  Soak for a minimum of 8 hours and up to 24 hours.  If like me, you forget to start them the night before:)  You can bring the beans to a boil.  Let them boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and allow them to soak for 2 hours.   After soaking, rinse well and drain.

2.  In a large Dutch oven with a tight fighting lid, stir together the beans, broth, 1/2 a pepper, the split garlic head, the half onion, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil and then cover.  Simmer for 30-45 minutes.  How soft you cook your beans is a personal preference.  We prefer ours softer, so I cook to the 45 minute point.  

3.  After the beans are cooked, remove all the vegetables from the cooking liquid.  When you drain the beans, you will need to reserve a total of 2 1/2 cups of the cooking liquid.  Please be careful!  If you don't have enough liquid, add water to the cooking liquid so it equals 2 1/2 cups.  Do NOT wash out the Dutch oven!

4.  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Rinse the rice in a very fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear.  (Not rinsing the rice will cause the rice to be sticky and not fluffy.)  Cut the remaining pepper and onion into small pieces.  If you have a food processor, run it until the pieces are about 1/4 inches.  If you are cutting by hand, enjoy the process:)  Mince the remaining 5 cloves of garlic and keep separate from the onion and pepper.

5..  Place 1 T. of oil in the Dutch oven along with the diced salt pork.  On medium-low heat, render the salt pork.  Rendering means you need cook the salt pork at a low temperature until the fat is melted and the remaining pieces have started to brown.  This takes approx. 15-20 minutes.  Remember to stir frequently!!!

6.  Once the salt pork is rendered, add the remaining 1 T. oil and the diced pepper, onion, cumin, and oregano.  Turn the heat up to medium.  Cook the vegetables until they are soft and starting to lightly brown.   Add the minced garlic and cook for an additional minute.

7.  Add the rice to the mixture and coat with all the yummy goodness!  Finally add the beans and cooking liquid and stir well.  Bring to a boil on the stove top and then cover with the tight fitting lid and bake in the oven for 30 minutes.

8.  After removing from the oven, remove lid and fluff the rice with fork.  Allow to rest for 5 minutes.  Serve from Dutch oven or move to your favorite serving dish.  Allow each person to top their portion with green onions and lime juice.  


(This recipe was adapted from a recipe originally published by Cook's Illustrated.)